More than 80,000 waiting for hospital appointments

Health system ’running to stand still for years’ - Irish Cancer Society

More than 80,000 people, including 8,016 children, were waiting for an appointment for their inpatient or day case treatment last month, according to the latest figures.

The public hospital waiting list data, published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF), shows, at the end of March, 80,476 patients were waiting for an appointment for their inpatient or day case treatment.

Of these, 44,408 were waiting up to six months and more than 17,000 were waiting more than a year.

The figures also show that 28,535 patients were waiting to receive an appointment for endoscopy and 625,056 patients were waiting for a first hospital outpatient consultation.

They list 13,250 people as awaiting an appointment for general surgery, 10,783 for orthopaedics, 8,434 for urology, 5,774 for gynaecology, 4,829 for pain relief and 4,821 for plastic surgery.

According to the NTPF, 24,576 patients have been given a date for their inpatient /daycase or endoscopy procedure.

In addition, 91,587 patients are recorded in the Planned Procedure category and 62,767 of these have indicative dates in the future or have an appointment. These are patients who have already had treatment and require further treatment at a future date. Their indicative dates for treatment are determined by a clinician and treatment before these dates would not be appropriate, the NTPF said.

Separately, 46,836 patients are classified as “suspended”, these are patients who are temporarily unfit or unable to attend due to clinical or personal/social reasons. The suspension category is also used where patients are being treated through various insourcing or outsourcing initiatives.

The overall waiting list numbers have continued to climb upwards since the start of the year. In January, there were 77,818 people, including 8,045 children, waiting for an appointment.

Of those, 46,557 were waiting up to six months and 17,537 more than a year.

In February, there were 78,371 people on waiting lists, including almost 8,000 children. Most, 47,264, were waiting up to six months and 17,092 more than a year.

Rachel Morrogh, the Irish Cancer Society's director of Advocacy & External Affairs, said the latest figures illustrate waiting lists are "unacceptably long" and worried patients "are paying the price in terms of delayed access to care".

"Timely access to both diagnostics and treatment is vital not just because that this will deliver better outcomes for patients in terms of their chance of survival, but for their mental well-being too," she said. "The Irish Cancer Society nurses hear all too often from patients and their families about the anxiety waiting for tests or care brings."

She said, while Covid-19 and winter pressures have undoubtedly contributed to the latest “alarming” figures, these “have been layered on top of a health system that has been running to stand still for a number of years”.

“Issues such as an overburdened and under-resourced medical workforce, as well as insufficient capacity across the health system to meet current and future demand, have grown in terms of both scale and impact.”

The Society “is once again calling for sustainable, long-term solutions that deal with the systemic causes behind today’s waiting list figures”, she said. “There is a patient behind every one of the numbers published today and it’s important that the human impact of these waiting lists is understood in terms of the distress they cause but also the clinical impact too.”